Screen ver­sus green

Na­ture-deficit dis­or­der makes a case for plant­ing the kids out­side by Darcy Stre­it­en­feld

Thornhill Post - - Kids Feature -

Let’s face it, th­ese days we are of­ten more in­ter­ested in up­load­ing lush green scenery to Instagram than rev­el­ling in it. Are short­ened at­ten­tion spans the only con­se­quence of our in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal and de­creas­ingly nat­u­ral ex­is­tences? What does this mean for kids to­day when the av­er­age Canadian child is soak­ing up a whop­ping seven hours of screen time daily?

In 2005, writer Richard Louv pub­lished Last Child in the Woods, his at­tempt to an­swer those ques­tions. In the best­seller he coined the term “na­ture deficit dis­or­der,” or NDD, a con­di­tion fea­tur­ing a host of trou­bling be­havioural is­sues in­clud­ing obe­sity, de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety dis­or­ders, cor­re­spond­ing with the rise in an­tide­pres­sants be­ing pre­scribed to chil­dren. He at­tributes each con­di­tion to our sys­tem­atic de­tach­ment from na­ture.

NDD states that a child’s abil­ity to con­cen­trate is cat­e­gor­i­cally im­proved by in­creased time in “green spa­ces.” Be­yond Louv’s hy­poth­e­sis, there is ev­i­dence to sug­gest that an at­mo­spheric diet of glass and con­crete — as op­posed to leaves and dirt — could be the cul­prit be­hind the rise of al­ler­gies.

Moral of the story? Get your kid out­side. There is much to be gained. We can all have bet­ter moods, health­ier bod­ies and in­creased con­cen­tra­tion. Toronto par­ents can even stave off NDD in their own backyards. With a lit­tle plan­ning and en­thu­si­asm, you can eas­ily make green time a part of your fam­ily’s rou­tine.

Here are some ways to get kids to shut down the screens and get into the green: 1) Take daily walks. Each day be sure to get the whole fam­ily out­side. An af­ter-din­ner stroll is a great way to catch up with each other, re­lax and connect. 2) Make it fun! Get the whole fam ex­cited about monthly out­door jaunts. Each mem­ber can take turns choos­ing their own adventure. Plan­ning is half the fun, build­ing an­tic­i­pa­tion be­fore the mem­o­ries them­selves. 3) Get in­volved. Not enough na­ture-based field trips at your child’s school? Make your voice heard. Speak to the teach­ers and the prin­ci­pals to in­crease out­door time and field trips. Come pre­pared with doable ex­am­ples. 4) Be a role model. You can’t be a “do what I say, not as I do” par­ent in this case. There’s no bet­ter way to com­mu­ni­cate the im­por­tance of the great out­doors than be­ing gen­uinely gung-ho about it. If you want your kids to soak up the beauty of na­ture, get to it your­self.

Re­con­nect your kids with the out­doors

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